While residents of Big Yard, Carenage, claim they are being targeted by the police, the nearby community of L’anse Mitan is calling for higher visibility of law enforcement officers due to an ongoing war between opposing gangs who have been unleashing a reign of terror on law-abiding citizens.
The call for a greater police presence was made by L’anse Mitan residents yesterday, four days after Keron Eve, 30, Kareem Roberts, 27, and Naomi Nelson, 14, were allegedly shot dead in a police-related shooting.
Also injured during the incident was resident Christian Eve, 31, and Ronaldo Sydney, 21, the godson of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley—who is MP for the area.
The T&T Police Service (TTPS) has stated that preliminary investigations suggested that officers were carrying out an arrest when they were shot at - a claim which the residents denied. One officer was injured in that incident.
Many of the residents in the upscale communities close to Big Yard distanced themselves from speaking about the warring gangs and their illegal activities.
On Monday, residents of Big Yard were still emotional as they spoke glowingly about Nelson, a student of Mucurapo West Secondary School whom they claim was innocently shot while walking along the street.
“Everybody loved Naomi,” Darrel David said, as he called on Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to ensure justice prevails.
“We haven’t slept a wink since the shootings. We will continue to camp out on the roadway until we get justice,” interjected Natasha Regis.
As a form of protest, the residents blocked a portion of Master’s Circular Road around 7 am with debris which they later set on fire. It was, however, quickly extinguished by police officers who have stepped up patrols since the incident on Friday.
The residents claimed for over two years they have become a regular target by the police—one of whom they identified as “Fish.”
“The police get hyper with this one shot one kill policy. They killing innocent people. I don’t think we would get justice,” David said.
On Saturday, Rowley visited Big Yard where he expressed concern about serious allegations that rogue police officers were operating in the TTPS. The PM said the next step would be a thorough investigation.
David felt Rowley’s presence was a waste of time.
“We don’t want to hear about Rowley. You only come because it is your godson...We voted for him for 24 years,” David said.
For over two years, the residents claim they have been under constant police harassment.
David admitted that there are a few “elements” in the community who were hauled before the courts.
“Nobody ain’t controlling nobody up here. That ain’t happening once I here. If anybody says so they would be lying.”
Asked if there was a fight for turf between the Rasta City and Muslim gang members, David said there were five Rasta City members in the area who he insisted have been keeping their distance.
“They not harassing we. People does come and shoot behind people here. It have a handful of people who have previous records but the police have to deal with it differently.”
Lawrence Joseph said Big Yard was one of the safest communities in the West but the incident has now cast a stain on them.
“If we don’t get justice, the tables will turn. The Government creating a hate state,” Joseph said.
A stone’s throw away at L’anse Mitan, the residents called for a higher police visibility, stating that the warfare between the Rasta City and Muslims at Big Yard had spilled into their tranquil community.
The Rasta City gang is located up the hill. The Muslims are over the river.
“They always fighting for turf,” a mango vendor said. “And we are caught in the crossfire.”
Most of the L’anse Mitan residents Guardian Media spoke to said they were not harassed by the police but would feel a lot safer if another police station is built in their community.
Councillor for Carenage Akeilah Glasgow said she would speak about Friday’s shooting when she had obtained all the facts.
Glasgow refused to comment about complaints of the warring gangs.
- by Shaliza Hassanali